The Formula One silly season is over. Heading into the week, all that was left were two seats. By the end of the week, both were filled. One of which we knew was likely going to be going Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. Why would either side depart with Hamilton one title away from the record for World Championships all to himself?
So, the only other seat left available was at Red Bull Racing. That seat really was even down to just two contenders – Alex Albon vs. Sergio Perez.
Most wanted that seat to go to Perez and it eventually did. I get it. He’s a popular veteran driver. He’s pushing 200 starts and was a popular race winner a few weeks ago in Bahrain. Yes, he has done enough to merit an F1 seat. Yes, it’s a sad state that he was getting pushed out for people with money.
Perez, deserved to have a ride to be able to stay put where he was at, but Lance Stroll’s dad has money and a stake in the team. For Haas, they need drivers with money and Nikita Mazepin’s dad has money and influence on the team for his son to have a ride. The other driver is Michael Schumacher’s son.
Renault has Fernando Alonso coming back. Ferrari went with a youth pairing for the future with Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren wisely took Daniel Ricciardo to pair with their future in Lando Norris.
Williams wasn’t going to part with George Russell. Why would they? He’s cheaper than Perez and has Mercedes’ backing.
So, the unfortunate nature is that Perez was getting pushed out. Red Bull was his last chance to stay on as an F1 driver in 2021. But, to me, it shouldn’t have come at the expense of Alex Albon.
Now, Red Bull is left to figure out their program’s overall future. Max Verstappen is their future. It’s clear. But, they don’t have a good program for their second car. They need to chase down Mercedes and close that gap to get back to where they were during that reign from 2009 through 2013. In order to do so, they need to strengthen their second car and having a turnstile of drivers doesn’t help.
See, they caught and passed Ferrari this year but how long does Ferrari actually stay down? The Prancing Horse’s are now set for the future now with a clear No. 1 and clear No. 2 driver for a while. Mercedes will be just as good as always in 2021 and I don’t see them dropping off any time soon with Russell poised to eventually make his way over. If Hamilton walks away at the end of next season, then they have a formidable pair with Russell and Bottas as the 1-2 drivers respectively. If Hamilton stays, then you get a likely combo of Hamilton and Russell and another solid No. 2 driver just waiting in the wings for Hamilton to finally hang up his helmet. Their future is solidified.
Red Bull? Well, they’re now left chasing again to find a formidable two driver tandem. I don’t think Perez is the answer.
They need continuity. They chew up and spit out drivers like it’s nothing. 2017 and 2018 was Ricciardo and Verstappen but Ricciardo left in 2019 and in comes Pierre Gasly. He barely had a cup of coffee there before being ousted for Albon. Now, Albon has had just two cups of coffee and he’s moved back to a reserve role.
What’s that do to Gasly and their newly signed driver to pair with him Yuki Tsunoda? What about the junior drivers below them?
Yes, Perez could be an upgrade, but honestly just how much of one? How much is he going to really propel this team forward? How long can he propel them forward for anyways?
Albon is just 24. He needs time to groom. Red Bull is so desperate to get a second driver that they’re not giving anyone in that role time to develop with them. They expect them to come in and contend to wins and championships instantly and realistically that’s not going to happen. They need to let the No. 2 driver be just that, a No. 2 driver. They’re placing too high expectations on them and kicking them to the curb too quickly in the aftermath.
Albon could place his car solidly in the top six or seven every race. So could Gasly. So could those before them. But, when forced with these unrealistic expectations, they push too hard and mistakes occur. They don’t give them time to learn and groom to be an F1 driver. It’s laughable.
With no expectations, Albon came in and had eight top six finishes over the final nine races of 2019. He had six top eight finishes in the first seven races of 2020. But, that’s when the pressure started getting turned up. They wanted podiums for this car and he was just a solid top six or eight driver.
Finally, a podium came but the stress was on still. During a pandemic season with nothing like it was in the past, Albon was constantly looking over his shoulder. He had to hear the rumors.
Was that fair?
I don’t think so at all. I feel like if Red Bull truly wants to catch Mercedes and stave off a fast coming McLaren and what a soon will be revamped Ferrari, they need continuity.
Verstappen can be a champion in this series. Albon is a great Robin to Verstappen’s Batman. He’s going to come cheaper and can give them something if shown the confidence from the team.
Replacing Albon with Perez is short sided and not going to close the gap all that much to Mercedes. How long is Perez really going to be there? It’s time for them to start thinking long term. Perez, isn’t the answer. Let Albon show you if he is or not. If not, you have a young program full of drivers that can.
Now, you slammed the door shut on them because if they want to succeed as a program and ever make it back up to the top, they need Verstsappen and Albon. This move pushes Albon aside for the temporary but allows him back when Perez is gone. If they finally wisen up and allow both Verstappen and Albon to gel and groom as a formidable tandem, then every other driver is stuck.
Gasly showed that without the pressure of the factory team, he can thrive. Albon did the same with the old Toro Rosso outfit.
That shows that the pressure is too high for the second seat at Red Bull. They need to give these drivers time to groom. Bringing back Albon for 2021 would havee been a step in the right direction.
Perez to Red Bull isn’t a slam dunk to work. It’s short sighted and will fail in the long run.